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Book Reviews: August 2015

19 August 15 words: Write Lion
With Blood in the Air, Real Heritage Pubs of the Midlands, Mad Madge, Dawn of the Unread and Getting By
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Blood in the Air
Katherine Wood
£8.99 (The King’s England Press)

Ever imagined a world where Terry Pratchett wrote the Lethal Weapon movies? Imagine no longer, as the debut novel from Katherine Wood is almost exactly that. The story follows Kari True, a no-nonsense officer of the city watch, as she attempts to get to the bottom of a series of mysterious disappearances in the slums of the city. Paired with the arrogant and aloof elf mage Elathir, what ensues is a fun, if not safe, buddy-cop romp through a high fantasy world. With its straightforward prose and action-heavy plot, Blood in the Air is nonetheless an uncomplicated, fairly enjoyable read, perfect for holidays or long bus journeys. Seasoned readers of Pratchett-esque fantasy fiction will appreciate Wood’s keen eye for character and setting, while those who enjoy procedural crime dramas will find this tale ticks all the boxes of a standard detective fiction novel. Liam Mills

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Real Heritage Pubs of the Midlands
Paul Ainsworth (Ed)
£5.99 (CAMRA)

Drawn from the Campaign for Real Ale’s National and Regional Inventories of Historic Pub Interiors, this beautifully produced and richly illustrated guide provides an overview of Midlands pubs of architectural and historical significance. Nottingham’s Olde Trip to Jerusalem and The Salutation rub shoulders with Bulwell’s Newstead Abbey and the Test Match in West Bridgford, while at least three Sneinton pubs make the grade. The book has thumbnail descriptions of each pub, while a series of short but informative essays explore the social history and unique attributes of some of these watering holes. A caveat on the inside cover warns that inclusion is no guarantee of “friendliness or even the availability of real ales”, but to read more than a few pages is to start planning epic pub crawls through Nottingham, not to mention away days to half a dozen other counties. Neil Fulwood

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Mad Madge
Gary Erskine/ Mhairi Stewart
Free (Shintin’)

Margaret Cavendish was a polymath who, with the help of husband William, subverted the norms of her day by daring to write under her own name, making her one of the first feminist icons. She was, according to the embedded essays included in the comic, the first woman to attend a meeting at the Royal Society of London and is credited as writing one of the first ever sci-fi stories. Dawn of the Unread cleverly parallels her life history in two ways. Firstly, the Cavendish story is told through husband and wife team Gary Erskine and Mhairi Stewart and secondly, it’s retold in a modern setting through Roller Grrrls, a comic that also challenges female stereotypes. The artwork uses subtle spot colours and creates a fab vision of Cavendish’s most famous work, The Blazing World. But what else would you expect from an artist whose CV includes Marvel, DC Comics, Judge Dredd and Star WarsChris P Baikon

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Getting By
Lisa Mckenzie
£14.99 (Policy Press)

From the 1958 Race Riots to the shootings in the early noughties, St Ann’s has become synonymous with trouble and an easy target for simplistic media representations of broken Britain. In this ethnographic study, Mckenzie – herself a local of over twenty years – offers an honest portrayal of estate life from within, bringing a much needed human dimension to poverty statistics. Of particular interest is her exposition of racial hierarchies within ‘Stannz’, which position Jamaican black men at the top and white men at the bottom. Drawing on Bourdieu’s work (but avoiding his incomprehensible jargon), Mckenzie shows the appeal of mixed relationships, in terms of culture and symbolic capital, within the community. When combined with negative stereotypes in the media, it’s unsurprising that St Ann’s is becoming an inversion of the gated community where locals prefer to stay where they fit in rather than aspiring to move and work elsewhere. James Walker

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